Sundance Review: Mistress America
Sundance is winding down, but I've still got a few reviews left in me. Wednesday night I was fortunate to have tickets to the delightful Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig collaboration Mistress America. This movie might be criticized for being a too precious indie film at first glance (akin to its predecessor Frances Ha which I also did, in fact, like,) but I actually found the film to be extremely true to life in the characters and ideas they presented. Maybe that's because one of my best friends reminded me of her with her constant crazy schemes for restaurant ideas (most specifically "I'll have what she's having") It's a tough call between this film and Dying Girl for my favorite film I've gotten to see at the festival, I seem to flip flop every day! Both resonate and are incredibly funny, but Mistress is kinda breezy while Dying Girl is more weighty. So really it depends on your mood.
The plot follows a lonely girl named Tracy in her first semester of college. An aspiring writer, she finds it hard to find friends... other than a guy she bonds with through writing short stories who quickly friendzones her. Her mother urges her to seek out a friendship with her soon-to-be step-sister named Brooke to fill the void. Once meeting the vivacious daughter of her mother's fiancee, Tracy finally has a muse to base her short stories on. It's really as simple as that on paper, but a lot more to it because of the characters. What I love most about Mistress America is that these characters seem lived-in. Just the smallest touches from Tracy's disheveled hair to the broken iPhone screen.. these feel like real people we all know.
That realness and relatability aren't the only things it has going for it though. It also has in its favor that it's incredibly funny, witty, and quotable. I'm paraphrasing here, but a line like "I can't wait to fast forward to the part of my life where everyone realizes I'm a genius." had me in stitches. Unlike previous Gerwig movies, she comes across as more human here and less with the pontificating voice. In fact, there's hardly time for such slow pondering as many of the scenes at the end are spoken so fast it's hard to keep up with them (but fun to try!) My only REAL complaint is that I guess it had more cat stealing like was promised in the Sundance official description. Sad day. RATING: 8.5/10